- 25 Aug 21
New hope emerged yesterday that Electric Picnic 2021 might go ahead, following a conciliatory statement by the Chief Medical Officer, Tony Holohan. Sadly, however, any possibility that EP might go ahead this year was dashed this afternoon...
There will be no Electric Picnic 2021. That seems to be the only conclusion to be drawn, following the announcement today by Laois County Council that it would be impossible to change the decision already made not to grant a licence for this year's event to the organisers, Festival Republic.
It has been a dramatic week for fans and promoters of the festival alike. Yesterday, in many ways going against stereotype, the Chef Medical Officer Tony Holohan offered the view that he would have no difficulty with Electric Picnic 2021 proceeding, as long as the attendees were all fully vaccinated. In response, the head of Festival Republic, Melvin Benn, issued a statement saying that if Laois County Council agreed the licence, then the organisers would be on-site the following day to put the infrastructure in place.
For almost 24 hours, hopes ran high that there might be an Electric Picnic 2021. MCD Productions boss Denis Desmond appeared on Today With Philip Boucher Hayes, on RTEé Radio One, this morning, and called on the Government to allow Electric Picnic 2021 to go ahead.
He explained that MCD had written to the Government asking for a decision on the issue to be made by tomorrow, Thursday, at the latest. He said – in line with the views expressed by the Chief Medical Officer – that it would be very safe to proceed with the event. "It's time," he said, "to open up and get back to the new normality."
Denis also asserted that indoor shows, at full capacity, should be allowed to return by October and November, as long as they are limited to people who are fully vaccinated.
Speaking on RTÉ's News at One at lunchtime today, Caroline Downey of MCD reiterated that it was a "lovely surprise" to hear the CMO Tony Holohan say that outdoor events could go ahead for the fully-vaccinated. She said that the promoters would work "morning, noon and night" to be ready, if they got the go-ahead.
She explained that, following Tony Holohan's remarks and comments made by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, the promoters had re-applied to Laois County Council to run the event.
She said that, if successful – and unlike Croke Park last weekend – the organisers would only allow people to work or attend the festival if they are fully-vaccinated, using a Covid certificate to confirm this.
Caroline Downey also stressed that by the end of September, over 90% of the population will be vaccinated. But, she said, organisers are "running out of time" and need to get started soon if they are to host the festival.
Now, however, those hopes appear to have been dashed.
The awful truth seems to be that these dramatic interventions came to nought, effectively on a technicality. Fine Gael Laois Councillor Aisling Moran told RTÉ that, the way the system works, the organisers of Electric Picnic would have no other option except to submit a new application for an event licence for this year's event.
The councillor explained that the original application had been turned down – and that this decision cannot be appealed, leaving only the option of applying again for a new licence.
However, that process takes time – too much time, that is, to allow the event to take place this year. Cllr Moran stated that a new application would take from six to eight weeks to process, under planning rules, to allow for people to raise concerns about the event or to object outright.
Laois County Council explained, in a statement, that the original decision was made on 4 August "having regard to the up-to-date advice from the Health Services Executive in their statutory submission." It also cited the need to adhere to "Government public health measures currently in place."
It said there is no provision in law which enables the council to revisit the refusal of the licence or to reconsider that same, initial application.
"Notwithstanding the comments emanating from yesterday's press briefing from NPHET," the council added, "nothing has changed as regards advice from the HSE, nor has there been any change to the Government Public Health Measures in place, in respect of hosting of outdoor events.
"Even if a new application for an event licence is made, the statutory timelines do not allow for the processing of a new application to facilitate the event on the dates as intended in the application previously submitted."